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The 2012 district 1A-7 semi-final softball game provided the signature moment for one of the best players in county history.
At times it looked like the top-seeded Union County Tigers would blow out the home team Indians. But Chiefland, a squad fresh off a roller coaster regular season and a record hovering around .500, had hung tight with of the best squads in the area.
It was the fourth inning, with the underdogs trailing 4-2 against the regular-season district champions. Chiefland began to chip away at the lead. Then they loaded the bases. Then Taylore Fuller stepped to the plate.
Fuller seldom saw a pitch to hit during the regular season. If the at-bat had any significance, Fuller usually saw four-straight pitches far, far outside. But Union County decided to pitch to her. The Tigers could have given up one run by walking Fuller again, eliminating the threat of further damage. Instead, Lake Butler’s Alexis Spriggle pitched to the Florida High School Athletic Association’s all-time home run hitter.
In short, Fuller added to her total.
Fuller’s last high school home run, a soaring, no-doubt-about-it grand slam, was the final highlight of a career full of big moments. It put her team up against a heavily favored opponent.
While the Tigers would battle back to take the game, that moment with Chiefland leading in the team’s most-important and arguably toughest game was worth the traumas and dramas of a long, difficult regular season. It was also fitting that her final enormous highlight would come off a home run, the play Fuller was best-known for.
But Fuller offered much more on the field than long bombs into the stands.
Fuller was a tremendous base stealer. Senior year she went 24 for 24 on steal attempts. She was so good and so quick that opposing coaches routinely complained to the officials that Fuller had left early. More often than not, she had accelerated so quickly and with such precision that coaches, and umpires, couldn’t believe what had happened.
Her 24 successful attempts don’t include her ability to take an extra base. Fuller’s on-base percentage was .871, meaning she at least made it to first nearly nine out of every 10 at-bats. With many of those trips to the base paths coming off intentional walks, Fuller made it routine to make it to third base off hits when most other runners could only think of making it to second.
Her skills on the base paths made the barrage of intentional walks even more devastating. Fuller walked 37 times this season. In five games, she was walked for every at-bat. Her power was so feared that for many opposing coaches it was an obvious choice. Union County coach Trudy Andrews walked Fuller seven times in nine total plate appearances in two regular-season games. Walking Fuller only once in the post season game, the slugger made Andrews pay with two hits in three at-bats, including the big home run.
Defensively Fuller was also a force to be reckoned with. Catcher proved to be an obvious location for Fuller in the field. It allowed her to take control of the game, help her pitchers and intimidate base runners with rocket arm. She was also intimidating to runners that made it around third. In order to score, they were probably going to have to get through Fuller. Maybe most impressively was her seamless transition to short stop for the start of this season. In a very different style of position, Fuller was able to take command of the infield. And when she was need back at catcher later on, she easily dominated once more behind the plate.
Through all that, it’s hard to ignore the home runs. Fuller was not only the top home-run hitter in the county, or the area or the state these last four seasons. She was the top home-run hitter ever in the history of Florida. She is a top-10 home-run hitter in the history of recorded high school softball. Never again will spectators have to park their cars away from left field. It’s not very likely Chiefland will ever see anyone come close to Fuller’s power numbers. She had 14 home runs her senior year. Thats a good number for an entire roster during a whole season for most teams. It will be a long time till some replicates Taylore Fuller. It will probably be a longer time until Chiefland sees a grand-slam as dramatic or exciting as Fuller’s in the post season.
While Chiefland loses Fuller, the University of Florida is very excited to get her. Fuller said it’s a dream come true to play for the local softball powerhouse at the college level. Softball fans in Gainesville can expect more impressive feats over the next four years, wether it’s on the base paths, behind the plate or over the fences.